Review: I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King, Jr.

i have a dream

I Have a Dream by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., illustrated by Kadir Nelson

The power of Martin Luther King’s words meet the beauty of Nelson’s art in this luminous picture book.  Using lines pulled directly from the latter part of King’s famous I Have a Dream speech, Nelson shows young readers how history was made that day.  From King himself standing before the Lincoln Memorial to the seas of people listening, people of all colors standing side-by-side.  Kadir moves back and forth between capturing the magnificence of King and his speech to images of what the world being dreamed of would look like.  There are beautiful skin tones shown together as well as impressive vistas of the nation.  Pure celebration, this is a picture book that truly captures the heart of King’s speech in a way that children will be able to understand.

Nelson’s art has already won him a Caldecott Honor.  Here he has the courage to take on a famous man at his more memorable moment.  But he doesn’t just show us the history, he illuminates it.  King shines with light, stands with power, and beams with faith.  There is a humanity to him too, somehow Nelson has captured what is beneath the skin too.  Beautifully.

One of my favorite images of the book is the pair of white and black hands joined together.  Against a plain white background, the hands are such a powerful symbol.  Kadir paired those joined hands with a section about faith, so the two joined together become a prayer of their own too. 

This book belongs in every library, both for the historical power of the moment being captured, but also for its exceptional beauty and art.  Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade Books.

Review: Unspoken by Henry Cole


Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole

Every now and then an illustrator takes an amazing risk and it works so beautifully that it’s a masterpiece.  That’s what Cole has done in this remarkable picture book.  Don’t expect to see the bright colors of his work in books like Moosetache or even the more subtle but equally bright And Tango Makes Three.  Instead Cole has turned to the medium of simple paper and pencil to create a book that is wordless and powerful.  It’s the story of a farm girl who discovers a runaway slave in their barn soon after seeing a group of men on horseback.  She is startled and unsure, but over the course of the evening decides to help him.  It is a story of gifts given and also received.

Cole’s delicacy of line and details are notable here.  He keeps the illustrations very child-friendly, but they are also mysterious, shaded in darkness.  He plays with light, as you can see from even the cover image.  These wordless pages build tension and roll like a film before your eyes.  I’m thinking that the skill shown with simple materials and the strength of this book could mean a Caldecott consideration.

This is a profound book that speaks volumes about the importance of personal courage and the difference that one individual can make.  This is not a wordless book for preschoolers.  It’s more appropriate for ages 7-9 who will understand the history better.

Reviewed from library copy.

Library Journal: Best Books 2012

lj reviews

Library Journal offers a variety of best book lists.  The one I watch for is the Young Adult Literature for Adults list.  Here are the books on the 2012 Best Books: Young Adult Literature for Adults:


Ask the Passengers by A. S. King

Bomb: The Race to Build – and Steal- the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin

The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan


Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

The Diviners by Libba Bray

Dodger by Terry Pratchett


The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi

Every Day by David Levithan


Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95 by Phillip Hoose

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman